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Public Statements

Health Care Reform

Floor Speech

Location: Washington, DC


Mr. CARTER. I thank the gentlewoman for being here to take over and for doing such an eloquent job of discussing issues in my absence. I apologize profusely that I was not here when my name was called. Thank you for taking this hour for us, and please stay and participate if you can. We're going to talk about the so-called health care summit that's coming up later this week and just exactly what it is and what we think it might be.

We're hearing a lot of spin on this issue from a lot of sources close to the White House. I have a concern that what they are offering is nothing more than another press event.

Let's start off by talking about what is proposed to happen. The White House this morning unveiled Senate bill 2, if you will, but not really, because they didn't give us a bill nor legislative language. They gave us about

12 pages of things that they said that this was Obama's offer of compromising with the Republicans. But the starting point, it seems, from what it says because it references from place to place the Senate bill, it seems the starting point for this, quote, bipartisan summit that is being offered by the White House is going to be the Senate bill, which stands about 3 feet high, and I think we don't need to really go into that. Everybody in America has seen that bill and they have seen the House bill, too. It's so heavy that the average citizen couldn't lift it without a forklift. Yet this seems to be still the starting point that the President is going forward with. The starting gate has been opened now ever since the Senate bill has come out and that's the starting place.

You hear people say, Why can't we have bipartisan effort? And we're hearing that this is an attempt at a bipartisan effort. Well, I would argue that there's a better way to show a bipartisan effort. But let's start with the work product that we have in place right now. We have a Senate bill and we have a House bill. What have the American people said about these gigantic intrusions into their private life?

They've said, We don't want the Senate bill and we don't want the House bill. We don't want something that is so gigantic and creates so many agencies and bureaus and groups and advisers and spends so much money, a trillion dollars here and a trillion dollars there. We don't want that. We want some simple stuff we can understand. We would like to see something that we as the American people can clearly read and understand.

They're asking us to let them be part of the process, to let them be able to read without the legalese, as we used to call it in the courtroom, which nobody can understand but the lawyer who wrote it.

No, that's not what the American people want. The American people are worried about the cost of health care. They're worried about the coverage of health care. They want to see that we get what they're worried about and that we're trying to save money, not spend money; that we're trying to give them opportunity rather than give them regulation. They want to be able to pick up something about maybe the size of this half a dozen pieces of paper and read it and kind of get a concept of what the people they sent to Washington are doing to start down the road to trying to fix health care.

They don't want a bill that stands this high. They don't want that, because they've gone by their Congressman's office and some of them have actually gotten copies of that thing and tried to dig into it and it's driving them insane as it is everybody that's tried.

You say, well, Judge, how do you say that the people have spoken about it? Well, let's look at what we've got in the way of public opinion polls. Polls, you can take them or leave them. But right now the public opinion poll on health care stands at 58 percent of the voters nationwide oppose Obama's health care reform plan.

Now when I say that, they're talking about resurrecting either the House or Senate bill. Quite honestly, I don't think they even know what he proposed as of this morning because quite frankly we didn't know until this morning.

What they're saying is, We don't like the omnibus style of health care bill. That's what they're saying. It's confusing, it scares us, we're afraid we're going to go bankrupt in this nation; and why can't you guys narrow it down to the simple things that would bring down cost and get better coverage instead of this massive changing of 18 percent of the American economy?

Fifty percent of the voters strongly oppose anything to do with the Senate or House plan, which is the Obama health care reform plan; and 78 percent of the voters expect the plan to cost more than projected. When you're in a world where people are talking about, Will the people who are buying our debt be willing to continue to buy our debt if we continue to go so far in the hole? What are we going to do about all this spending? What are we going to do about all this huge amount of accumulated debt that we've accumulated in the last 12 months and is projected to accumulate in the future?

These are questions that the ordinary guy on the street at the coffee shop on Monday morning is talking about. This is what the guy at the cafe in the small town after he finishes having his lunch, he and his friends sit around and they talk about. And they're worried about it. They know what happens to their lives when their debt is overconsuming and they're concerned, what is going to happen to our country when our debt is overconsuming. It's really telling when they are so afraid that this bill and this proposal that's going to come forth, we think, from the White House on Thursday at this summit of bipartisanship, they're afraid it's going to cost more than projected.

One of the things I wondered about when I came to this place, it seemed to me as just an ordinary citizen out there watching what goes on in Congress that one group says it costs X and one group says it costs Y, and nobody is saying who's telling the truth. And X may be a trillion dollars off from what Y says. The American people look at that and say, That place is broken. One hand doesn't know what the other hand is doing.

And then they say, Well, it's all politics. Well, they're fed up to here with all politics. The folks back home are saying, We're fed up with politics. We've got to get down to basics. It's time to go back to not spending money you don't have and creating jobs that are real jobs. We don't want all the jobs that are created to be jobs that exist in Washington, D.C. The only place in the country that's got positive job numbers is right here.

Why is that? Because we're hiring a lot more Federal employees and those Federal employees are out there growing the size of this monster that we live in. The American people are worried about that. They look at health care and they look at this so-called summit and say, Why don't these guys kind of do what they say they were going to do and everybody push the stuff that nobody likes off the table? Let's lay new stuff or new concepts on the table and let's have a work-together session on coming up with solutions. That's what the American people thought was being proposed.

But I would argue that that's not what we're seeing from the White House. I think that it's something that concerns all of us greatly. The number one worry right now, I think, of the American people when you cut through all the stuff that you watch on 24-hour news, the number one concern of the American people is, We don't trust you to listen to us anymore. We want you to listen to what we're saying. We've told you in our polls, but not just in the polls now. Somebody will say, well, one poll favors this group and one poll favors that group.

There's another sort of a poll that has taken place in just the recent past and, that is, we have had three elections here and this is the American people casting their opinion in the media of public opinion--a vote. We used to tell jurors that the only thing more important than serving on a jury if you're a juror is casting your vote, because all of this freedom that we have depends upon your vote. All of this prosperity that we create depends upon your vote. So you should cherish that vote.

Well, Americans do cherish that vote. And I would argue that in New Jersey, in Virginia, and most recently

in Massachusetts the polls are in. What those polls say is, We don't like what's going on right now in the majority. Look at these colors. Red is the Republicans. This is arguably the most Democrat State in the entire country. And look at what the polls show, that the American people said, Enough is enough. What we're looking for, we don't care what party this guy's in; we're looking for a guy that will listen to us. And BROWN is a man that will listen to them; and they voted for him.

You can't have a State with the kind of Democrat numbers that Massachusetts has and not realize that Democrats voted for him. They had to. The numbers are overwhelmingly Democrat in that State. Which is a message to us here, that we're looking for somebody we can trust; we don't care what party he's in. I would argue that the same thing happened in Virginia which, if you look at those numbers compared to the Presidential numbers, or New Jersey which you look at those numbers compared to the Presidential numbers, there was a great shift in the public saying, We don't trust the folks that are running the show right now and we want something else.

I really don't think that they were thinking like politics. I really think they were thinking like Americans. Our Founding Fathers never wanted us to make our decisions based upon what political party we belonged to. They wanted us to make our decisions upon what's good for the country, and what's good for the people of the country. And I think the message we're hearing from the tea party groups that you hear from and from the other groups that are making very vocal, loud outcries, saying to us, Just listen. Stop talking and start listening to what we are asking you. The driver right now that they're asking us to listen to is their outcry against massive change in 18 percent of our economy in the health care field. They want to make sure that they've got coverage for their families and that medical care is affordable. They don't need a million more bureaucrats to tell them how to do that; that new regulations don't solve their problem. Commonsense solutions solve their problem.

The President has had, and I will argue still has but the time line is getting short, a golden opportunity to step up and make this a true summit on bipartisanship. But it should start at a minimum with him doing what JOHN BOEHNER did on the floor of this House and dropping those two bills in the trash can and saying, Ladies and gentlemen, we are here to work out our issues, and all previous work is not on the table. We're here to start anew, and we can do it together. And, hey, if that's what's coming, that's the way it ought to be.

I will tell you, I don't think that's what's coming, and I think the indications are clear. Just recently, the White House made a statement that the bill passage is one thing and the media event is another. So it is a media event that's being created by the White House. The campaign is over, Mr. President. It's time for us to sit down and act like we're supposed to.

This is not a parliamentary government. This is a Republic. This is a separate but equal branch of government over here in the Congress and our voices should be heard, not played with. I have great concern about what we're getting ourselves into on Thursday.

There's a couple of things that have been said by the media, and I'm not going to go into them in any detail, but they're all basically saying, Watch out. This is not really a bipartisan reachout. This is really a media performance. And because the bill--and let me make something very clear. I don't want to use the term ``bill.'' What the President brought out this morning is not legislative language; it is not a bill that says in black and white what changes need to be made. It is a series of suggestions and most of the references are to line and page and section of the Senate version of the health care bill. So you've got to start with 2,000 pages and then go in and tweak them.

There's only one thing harder than trying to sit down and read a 2,000-page bill. And seeing as I used to do this kind of stuff for a living, I can make this argument very effectively. It's much harder to go through and comprehend the whole bill and then reference a change on line 1, page 7, paragraph 2, because then you've got to read what was there, read what was not there, and then figure out how it fits the context of 2,000 pages.

So amendments are even more difficult for the person who's in the business of doing it, and we're in the business of doing it. But for the average citizen, it becomes--not that they're not smart enough to do it. It is so dad-blamed tedious that you don't want to do it. It'll drive you off a cliff. And that's the kind of thing that the American people are tired of. They want it to be simple. So we're starting with 2,000 pages and tweaking 2,000 pages. This is not what we're asking for in the way of a summit.

I see my good friend from Wyoming is back, and we're glad to have her. I'll yield to her for whatever comments she wants to make.


Mr. CARTER. And I thank the gentlelady for her comments. And I agree with you. You've nailed it, what the American people are looking for. That's just exactly what I was talking about. They're looking for something, they, for the first time in many generations, and it's a real joy for those of us who believe in our Republic. They are wanting to be involved, and they're doing it by stepping up at every level and saying, Give me something I can understand because I want to be able to comment. I want to be able to tell my Representative or my Senator how I feel about it, and don't hide it in a gigantic monster omnibus proposal. Put it out there on the table in a form that I can understand so I know what you're doing to my life.

The President made some proposals, and this is a summary. I'm not reading from proposals, but some of the proposals' details that he's put forward are going to be $500 to $700 billion worth of new taxes, $500 billion of Medicare cuts again, new taxes and insurance mandates on businesses during this recession.

The White House says this bill will raise health--they admit it will raise health care costs. It'll probably cut millions of jobs over 5 years, raise the insurance premiums is what they're doing, mandates individual coverage under threat of jail time, which is why the administration wants Gitmo cleaned out, and eliminates pro-life protections in the House bill. Those are just some of the things that they've more or less admitted that they've done with this bill.

Now, that's not the kind of stuff the American people want to hear. And plus, they know, the American people have learned in this debate that the devil is in the details. And so, even if these were acceptable, the details are where these gigantic bills come from.

So I've got my good friend, PAUL BROUN from Georgia. He is here to give us the wisdom of the physician, and I yield to him what time he may consume.


Mr. CARTER. Thank you.

Reclaiming my time, you said something that I think is important because I'm going to tell you that I'm concerned that all this is is a media event and all this is--so I'm going to ask people to listen for some things that probably will come out of this event. I think you may hear that the President reached out a hand and the Republicans gave back a fist. I think you may hear that the Republicans continue to be the Party of No. Well, first, what's wrong with being the Party of No if it's bad policy?

You got elected to come down here and represent people who expected you to stand up and say, This is bad. No.

Secondly, let's get this very clear. The Republicans don't have any way to stop this bill, especially in this House. They have an overwhelming majority. It's their party they can't get the votes from. It's not the Republican votes blocking this bill; it's the Democrat votes that are blocking this bill.

So this whole thing, if we're going with the same work product they've already created, then it is a sham to go over there and deal with the work product that has already been created because they know they can't pass it, and they know the American people don't want them to pass it. So let's do what he said he was going to do and let's start over.


Mr. CARTER. You brought up something that has bothered me about this whole process since the day it started.

First off, I would argue, and I think that the evidence shows overwhelmingly, that we are being treated as--both the Republican minority and the American people--by a group of folks who believe that the elite of their party are just smarter than the rest of us, and they don't have time nor inclination to fool with us because they are, you know, the elite of our country, the great liberal masses and progressives they call themselves now, who have figured out all of the solutions to society's woes. And our opinions are not asked for.

Now, what is the evidence that will prove that? I will submit my two pieces of evidence. To start off with will be the House bill, which basically was drafted behind closed doors by the Democrats and their elitist staff groups. I submit the Senate bill, drafted exactly the same way. I submit the rules which allowed almost no amendments offered from the Republican side in the piece of garbage that they created.

And then I would submit the President has just done the exact same thing with his talking points he submitted to us saying, Oh, by the way, here's what we're going to talk about. That is not a bipartisan discussion. That is not working together on health care. That is saying, Yes, mama. What else can I do for you? And I am not there. I am not there.

I believe it's our job as Members of this body to stand up to the White House and say, You got all of the playing cards. If you think you can get this thing done, act like a big boy and step up here and do it. But don't start laying off on Republicans, and if you want to say it's a summit, then let's have ideas.

I see I am joined by two of the most courageous colleagues that we have, and one of them is bound to say something. So let me see what my good friend, Mr. Gohmert, has to say about what's going to happen on Thursday.

My good friend from Texas and a fellow judge, and he always has something good to say. I yield him what time he needs.


Mr. CARTER. Reclaiming my time for just a moment, there is no bill. The President has given us no legislative language. He has only given us 12 pages of talking points of what he says he is going to propose in a bill. But I know you, and I know you very well, you are one of the guys around here who want to see the bill, see the legislative language. You go to the trouble to dig down in there. It is kind of I guess a weakness of being an old trial judge. We all want to see what is in the law before we want to rule on it. Well, there is no bill in this particular thing. There is only the President's talking points. And that is another thing. We have got to get this straight. They don't have a bill.


Mr. CARTER. That is a great summary. And that is exactly what the American people need to be looking for. They need to be looking for those words, reconciliation, because the truth is the real loaded gun that is going to be held to the heads of those who go to negotiate is reconciliation, which will mean we are not interested in Republican input, and we are going to bypass it.


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